After a few false starts dotted into my life, like trig points on pathways and cairns in wild places, I came to the conclusion that false starts are frequent happenings in the lives those striving to build an alternative way to live their lives. A creative life often means trying different things to see what is not so that you can identify what is. I am sure that just changing jobs has had the same effect for many. We think this or that shift will be a good move only to find we’re getting paid just a wee bit more for doing much less of what we anticipated, what we’d really like to do. Interviewing many people of late I realised that few if any of the applicants had done or were doing what they would have truly fine inspiring.
In the creative spheres of designing and building things from wood the result of building on faulty thoughts and without any financial backing to support you can have devastating effects. I know, I’ve done it. So would a business plan and all that that takes increase the probability of success or would it result in your ‘eyes-in-the-headlights‘ freezing to the spot.
I confess I have been to shows to display my new designs when I couldn’t pay for the first night’s hotel away from home and with four nights yet to come. I’d driven through three states for 1,700 miles over 30 hours with one 8-hour stopover to do it. My car was 20 years old with 250,000 miles on the clock; a Ford Country Squire Estate onto which I had built and bolted through the metal a red oak roof rack 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. I’d had an idea that I thought just might work. I remember the length of those long straight roads as if it was today. It was a lonely drive and police helicopters followed me from time to time to check my speed. I never knew such straight roads existed like that. I did it three times in three years using three different routes that all took the same time with only a few miles different. Oh, and I used the same old car for each journey but hooked on a U-Haul as I grew. It never let me down. The shows? I went from strength to strength with each one. My designs are now sold in ever state in the USA and the likelihood is that you’ve seen them in many of the gas and goes that cover the USA. Think Stuckey’s on the one hand and then Gander Outdoors who were formerly Gander Mountain. Successes on the one hand and then leaving me high and dry on the other. Gander Mountain went bankrupt at one stage and left me with an unpaid bill of $20,000 I never recovered.
Not perhaps something in particular to boast about, but then too, I have learned that risking things can result in a success of a kind you cannot measure in bottom line calculations. there are other elements I feel are more important to some of us than financial security and ease. Those times mean some of the most wonderful memories for me where I took raw wood and planks and converted them into beautiful pieces of art. No one can buy me those memories of crossing deserts listening to the radio, country music and such and then too seeing those herds of wild horses and cacti high above me as I drove.
Pursuing dreams is less about security of work and stability for me but more about striving, striving against all odds to live a lifestyle I have grown to love. Business plans for me were jottings on cigarette packings and beer mats, the inside of an envelope. I did not care about bank loans and borrowing into debt but reinvesting every penny I made into the vision I had for living life to the full and designing my work. Reckless, cavalier? Maybe others will tell me I should have done this or that (as they often feel compelled to do), had a business plan, got some financial backers, to make more money for a better bottom line, but here’s the thing. I might never have sat on the tailgate of a vintage one-ton truck I bought for $150 to watch the orange ball turn deeper red as the sunsets of Texas often do. With my full load of mesquite logs I knew I had yet to drive a few miles in the dark through several gravel river bottoms yet it was this workload that brought (and my dad) such immeasurable delight. I could go on with my other tales of being self employed, making my pieces from raw trees yet to be slabbed but this is to say it was punctuations like that where I learned that without risking things, we mostly end up not achieving much at all. I know so many successful business people who have succeeded in developing businesses that then turned into income producing ventures. Whereas this reality exists everywhere, the ingredient that is often missing is that they created a business that wasn’t based on designing work that was, well, visually attractive, in spheres complementary to living a life filled with wood and tools and workbenches. A life style that is as enduringly durable and liveable as the designs and pieces you bring into life. Things just lovely to have. There is something about working with your hands that just brings the whole of life together. This fully orbed way of life is so intrinsic to creating beauty. In a new culture I see how seldom people see beyond trendiness to embrace the essence in the art of true craftsmanship. I see all the more that I missed how people perceive things – the pallet coffee table slapped together with a glass top, white wall paint and shiny bright steel casters. Now I am not saying people shouldn’t enjoy the trendy, just that it lacks the art of finer working that is all. Were I to put such a thing in my current living area it would indeed not fit. So what does it mean to ‘fit’? Well, were I to buy a flat in a vintage factory converted for living I think that the palletwood coffee table might fit its retro environment quite well, no doubt!
Risk is important. Of course it can lead to a big mess, but it can also take you beyond the boundaries of fear into the new millennium. Not many dad’s tell their children such things. All too often they say, “I just want you to be happy!” Well, what parent doesn’t want that for their children? But it is not necessarily an either or but a both. Think making Lifestyle rather than just moneymaking, that’s all I am saying.